Critics’ Picks

View of “Leopard,” 2013.

Los Angeles

Matthew Brannon

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 West Edgewood Place
November 16–January 18

Unlike much of Matthew Brannon’s signature pared-down, stencil-inspired imagery, for “Leopard,” the artist’s third solo exhibition at the gallery, his latest work is centered on an erotic novella that he penned himself, also titled Leopard (2013), which reveals a sinister and frankly perverse nature. To mark Brannon’s return to experiments in such provocative writing all the more strange, the book itself is completely inaccessible.

Rather than presenting the story as a readable object, Brannon slyly utilizes six canvases installed on the gallery walls as its hiding place. On the side of each canvas, small slots have been lined with metal, in which copies of the thin book have been wedged. In this way, Brannon has created a confusing confluence between the functionality of a bookshelf and the inherent antifunctionality of a painting. While the tight, squiggly, and haphazardly scrawling lines in Brannon’s black-and-white paintings on view, each of which begins with the title Inside Out, such as Inside Out, VII (The Proofreader) and Inside Out, VI (The Translator) (all works 2013), are reminiscent of Brannon’s other graphic work in acrylic, the paintings also include materials, such as brass, enamel, and offset printing on paper, that nod toward publishing.

In the middle of the gallery two monitors play Undivided Attention (Leopard). The left screen shows a woman sitting while reading Brannon’s book, seemingly unaffected by its bravado. On the right, the book’s text scrolls upward a bit too quickly for the viewer to hang onto any single word. In this haste, a fragmented story silently unfolds. One gathers that the protagonist is writing to his ex-lover, recalling their time spent in an experimental collective that based performances and films on their unusual sex acts, some of which involved being tied up or crammed into a room with other writhing bodies. Knowing that such intimate and raunchy secrets are tucked inside such cool, collected paintings imbues these works with an insatiable sense of intrigue that mimics the tense tone of the book, which epically ends with the filming of a schematized, depraved, and fatal orgy on an airplane.